Tag Archives: New York

On Board #75

Details here, then send ’em in.

June 15, 9:55 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

There’s a baby being changed: orange diaper, pink pants, green blouse. Let’s call her Sally. She’s producing a horrifying sound – like the screeching of the subway brakes disharmonizing with a dying animal.

Mom’s face does not change throughout the dirty process: she does not want to be doing this here, on the subway, but she must. No one gets off to board another car, though they could.

The deed done, she bounces Sally on her lap, then holds her over her left shoulder, patting her back all along. The crying finally stops; a pacifier is the solution. Now that the child has calmed, down the mother cannot take her eyes off Sally. For a few moments, the faintest of smiles crosses her lips.

On Board #74

You too can be a featured On Board contributor. This one comes from Kasia Cannella. Do you have World Cup fever? Yes? Well why aren’t you wearing a cape?

June 17, 6:52 p.m.
2 Train, Nevins St. to Grand Army Plaza

On Board #73

Read, then send.

August 4, 6:36 p.m.
B Train – 42nd Street to 96th Street

Few subway-related struggles seem worse than dealing with a stroller, a friend recently noted. True, I thought, except for handling a child just large enough to make a stroller unreasonable. Here we have a mother and  a stroller. The stroller holds two children, but she pays them no attention, with good reason: her focus is on another child, around six, busily applying a black marker to a subway pole. Mom snatches the marker and gives a lecture in Spanish. Roughly translated:

Mom: Stop that. You need to draw on your paper.

Girl: [Throws yellow paper to the floor. One side is covered in lines and shapes, the other with an advertisement for a Chinese restaurant.] No! No! No!

Mom has had a long day: brow furrowed, eyes locked on points unknown around the car, mouth forming an unwavering horizontal line. She holds a red mesh shopping bag next to her with a baby’s bottle, roll of toilet paper and cell phone sticking out of the top. She checks the phone, quickly.

The girl leans into her mother’s arm.

“Ewwww,” she spouts.

“That’s what perfume smells like,” Mom answers, in English, without a hint of sheepishness.

There is a second stroller in the car that might alleviate some of the crying if it weren’t tucked behind the two children, out of view. A man in a black polo and jeans holds a yellow cage that looks like a see-through rolling suitcase. Inside is a Yorkshire terrier that keeps still, though its open eyes betray that it’s awake. The man folds the extended handle and picks up the cage as he exits the car, the three children never the wiser.

The girl has moved from graffiti to gymnastics. She lays on her back, her head resting awkwardly at a 45 degree angle on her mother’s lap. She sticks her legs straight up, then spreads them like a reverse jumping jack. As a final flourish, she wraps her knees around the horizontal bar and pulls her torso up into a human arch.

“Look, I spit in the train,” the girl says as she, sure enough, spits in the train.

“Don’t do that,” her mother finally snaps, giving her a mild slap on the wrist. “That’s disgusting.”

The girl turns to face an ad for Dallas BBQ. Though she does not comment on the leathery texture of it’s brisket, she does begin reciting the letters she recognizes in the poster, in no particular order.

“That’s not the right order,” Mom says, in her best teaching voice.

The girl stops and recites the alphabet from a to t, then hums an indistinguishable tune. She’s too busy for u, v, w, x, y, and z.

On Board #72

Details here. Send ’em here.

May 19, 11:15 p.m.
N Train – Union Square to Atlantic Ave

Four MTA employees, their covers blown by orange and yellow reflectors, are seated at the front end of this train. Two have light blue helmets, two hold gray ones. They sport identical black boots, and each wears multiple layers: two hooded sweatshirts, a camoflauge button-down, a sweater vest over a full length sweater. It’s mid-May and warm out, though apparently not where they’re going. Other uniform requirements: blur gas masks, ear muffs, wristwatches, neon green flashlights, whistles attached by the vest.

They do not sit together. One – squat, Hispanic, middle-aged – rests his right arm on a rail. Two full seats away his partner sits motionless, with a salt and pepper mustache and rimless glasses. Across from him a young black man rubs his eyes, and the last of the quartet stands by the door. Their facial expressions remain remarkably uniform: stoic, unsmiling, bemused, looking forward to nothing tonight.

Several passengers depart and the mustached man stretches his legs, off into the night.

On Board #71

On Board has its first case of syndication, this time at The Awl:

New Yorkers are in a unique anthropological position to observe their fellow citizens divided into two bitter factions, rooting for athletic blood enemies. I chanced upon a meeting of the dueling tribes last night, in the wild, on a packed 7 train from Vernon Jackson Boulevard to Citi Field. This is what I saw.

Read my full account of the ride here. I would have preferred that my author bio read “Reeves Wiedeman was most surprised that no one mocked his Kansas City Royals hat,” but we can’t have it all.

This should be all the more motivation for you to get your On Board submissions in.

On Board #70

Full details here; full accounts to be sent here.

May 13, 9:42 a.m.
B Train – 7th Avenue to Atlantic Avenue

The best dressed man on this train is reading a Metro New York. He’s in a blue and gold and brown striped suit, with a tan base color and is flanked by two older white men, one in a hoodie, the other in a CNN-embroidered parka. Our man’s straw hat is circled by a brown ribbon that goes with his peaked button down and glossy tie; all of which match his shiny brown pocket square, crimped neckward like a pyramid. His pants are loose but not unkempt. He looks like a 70’s don, but his jewelry – a small stud in his left ear and a jangly gold band covered by his right cuff – are understated. He reaches down as if to dust off his already shined wingtips (lustrous chocolate, of course), but instead picks up a briefcase and plastic Duane Reade bag, and departs at Atlantic. Manhattan might need style, but style does not need it.

On Board #69

On Board details here; send ’em.

August 6, 6:34 p.m.
N Train – Times Square to Atlantic Avenue

A woman in a lycra shirt, long sleeved, is bent at the knees ruffling through an overstuffed backpack in the middle of the car. All the seats are taken, and none of the gentlemen seem inclined to make room for Kate, which appears to be her name, if the faux diamonds encrusted tricep-high on her left sleeve are to be believed. She pulls a paperback copy of Emma out of her backpack after considerable searching, and stands to grab the handlebar while straddling the pack.

It is with almost Austenian poetry that she finally snares a seat next to a man holding a copy, also paperback, of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in his lap. He has black hair indistinguishable from his black beard, and at the moment is paying little attention to his book and more to the gal on his right arm. They joke quietly into each others ears, smiling frequently, whispering sweet, possibly Romantic nothings. They kiss, a lot.

The pair depart at Canal St., and a slight Asian woman takes the seat, turning the literary coincidence into a sitcom as she opens US Weekly to the Red Carpet spread.  In a deference to progress, our Emma reader, Kate, pulls out her cell phone in preparation for the 90 seconds the train will spend in T-Mobile’s coverage area over the bridge. She leaves a white piece of paper, folded in half, to mark her page. She listens to a voicemail.

Meanwhile, the Asian woman has maintained an assassin’s focus on her magazine, pausing only briefly to tear a “Save 50% Off The Cover Price! Subscribe today!” postcard from the pages.  There’s an eclectic mix of reading elsewhere on the train: two Metro New York’s, an anime comic book, Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle, a book written in Japanese, a Post, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, a book about investing, another with Tom Clancy smirking on the back in a red mesh baseball cap, aviators, and a bomber jacket, a Village Voice, and one New York magazine, held open to the listings section. Returning below ground and out of range, our girl opens her book back to page 72, probably reading about Emma screwing everything up. She recently bought the book for $4.95 from Borders. Unless she’s a subscriber, the Asian woman paid just four cents more for her magazine.